New York Fires Up The Decaf Marijuana

“Normally I sell pretty good Jamaican weed,” Tommy, a drug dealer who works in Washington Square Park, said the other day. “For some of my good customers, I’ll get the hydroponic stuff, the superior product. But one day a couple of months ago, these guys started asking me for, I don’t know–I guess you could say a mellower weed .”

Tommy, who is middle-aged, with long, gray hair and a droopy waddle of skin under his neck, snuck a sip from his cup of tea. One of his recent customers, he said, “was like, ‘I don’t smoke too much … the last stuff I bought got me paranoid about whether my kid is making car-insurance payments. I couldn’t sleep all night, and I was constipated for two days.’”

Tommy’s buyer was not unusual, it turns out. As better cultivation techniques and genetic engineering have made marijuana more potent than ever, dealers and users say that many members of pot’s first generation–the baby boomers–have discovered they cannot function under the modern bud’s influence. Here in New York, they’ve begun asking their suppliers to provide them with a kind of low-grade, retro, “decaf” pot–one effective enough to produce a mild high, and not so powerful that it makes them hallucinate at Junior’s soccer practice.

“I’m 47,” said Steve Wishnia, a senior editor at High Times magazine. “You go out in a social situation, you don’t want to be incoherent. You don’t want to be unable to buy a movie ticket–or at least you don’t want buying a movie ticket to be a major transaction.”

The demand for decaf pot runs against the idea that drug users always want the most effective, fastest-acting version of their drug of choice. Older pot smokers seem to want marijuana that reminds them of the seedy, cruddy stuff they used to get in their high-school or college days, when quality was often amusingly poor and getting high could be a crapshoot.

“There’s a lot of people who are requesting products that won’t give them heart palpitations or paranoia,” said Brian Del Re, a sales representative for Club 13.com, a New York-based company that sells smoking accessories. Mr. Del Re, noting that marijuana 25 years ago was a “lot weaker than it is today,” called decaf weed “a trend that’s just beginning.”

The problem, Mr. Del Re noted, was cultivating the mild stuff. Most commercial marijuana, he said, is specially bred for potency–fewer seeds, bigger buds and macroscopic THC crystals. Mr. Del Re told his own horror story about super-potent pot. “One time I’m using a five-foot water pipe,” he said. “I took one puff of high-potency marijuana, and I fell on a couch and listened to my heart palpitate in my head for the rest of the night. If you’re not a regular smoker, it’s even harder to take.”

Tommy, however, had a common-sense solution for the decaf-pot demand. He walked back to his office–a Ford Explorer–and laced a couple of joints with the tobacco from a Marlboro Light. As pot-dealer tricks go, this is the oldest one in the world. But Tommy said that some of his customers actually preferred the tobacco-laced herb. He sells these joints for the slightly inflated price of $12 each–same as he charges for the regular stuff.

“Here’s the best part,” Tommy said. “I told them I was giving them a deal because of the tobacco being so cheap. They were happy; they didn’t know the difference.”

Tommy said that nowadays he always keeps a few tobacco-laced joints on hand. He even has several grades–from 80 percent marijuana and 20 percent tobacco down to a 20/80 marijuana and tobacco mix. They all cost $12 per joint.

Hoping to capitalize on the demand, some marijuana botanists have begun breeding low-potency plants. “I keep one or two of them just in case,” said one grower, who did not wish to be identified. Another grower, a 52-year-old retired dentist who lives on the Upper East Side, said: “I grow for myself, so obviously I don’t want it to be stronger than I can handle–which, at 52, is less than it used to be.”

Referring to contemporary, super-bred marijuana, the grower said: “One joint and I would lose my whole weekend. Your only other choice is to just take one toke and then you’re O.K. But that’s no fun. I don’t want it to be over so fast–like my prom night! I like the flavor. You know, there’s a reason why they call it ‘flavor country ‘–not ‘flavor tiny little town that you zoom by in two seconds.’ So I started growing my own stuff.”

Kyle Kushman, the cultivation reporter at High Times , said the secret of breeding weaker plants was to ignore today’s conventional wisdom about marijuana growing. “Basically, what you do is what I advise people not to do,” Mr. Kushman said. “You find some seeds in the pot that you buy on the street, and you put in soil and grow it.”

He concluded: “They’re not going to look like the plants in the centerfold of High Times magazine. At least not today’s High Times . They might look like the plants in the centerfold of High Times 15 years ago.”

–Ian Blecher

The Errata Strikes Back

The following letter appeared in the Feb. 4 editions of the Brooklyn Papers , a group of newspapers serving Park Slope and other Brooklyn neighborhoods:

To the editor:

It is quite exciting to have picked up The Park Slope Paper and found there to be a write-up about an upcoming event at the Brooklyn Museum of Art exhibiting the art of Star Wars . What an incredible installation it will be, I’m sure.

However, within Lisa Curtis’ article, a terrible and utmost horrific mistake was made when announcing C-3PO and R2-D2 as “imperial droids.”

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Talk about a slap in the face!

They are rebel droids! Imperial refers to the Empire and Darth Vader, but these two fantastic works of art are with the good guys.

Alas, as C-3PO once said, we are “very human beings,” and Lisa, it’s O.K.

Tim Young, puppeteer

Park Slope

Rules Of The Annual Matzo Ball-Eating Contest At Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen

Held Tuesday, Jan. 29:

1. Each matzo ball must be fully eaten before moving on to the next one.

2. Utensils and sitting are optional.

3. Vomiting = disqualification.

–Anna Jane Grossman

Results Of The Annual Matzo Ball-Eating Contest At Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen

1. Oleg Zohornitsky, Russia, 16.25 matzo balls

2. Eric Booker, Copaigue, 15.75 balls

3. Donald (Moses) Lerman, Levittown, 15.50 balls

–A.J.G.

Actual Things I Said To My Cat Last Night

1) “Did you just take some cute pills, Baba?”

2) “Baba girl, you’re just about the cutest little Baba girl in town.”

3) “Oh, kitty, we’re just gonna pick you up now, I know you’re trying to talk to me but you haven’t learned to do that yet, that’s right, you’re so cute I’m gonna gobble you up, take a bite out of your head and hurl you against the wall.”

4) “We got ourselves a gooooooo-oooooodquaaaaaaaaaaaality cat.”

5) “It’s the cat fantastic!”

6) “Yeah, Baba, yeah. You’re a show cat. And your tum-tum hangs down to the floor ’cause you like your Cat Chow so much. We got 17 pounds of cat here!”

7) “Baba maybe wants to roll around in some catnip?”

8) “Baba grew up so big, when she was little she fell out the window six floors down and was on death row for a while, lost her babies, then she got fixed. And when they took her claws out, she got sick at the vet and they charged $2,000 to save her, but that’s O.K.”

9) “That’s enough, Baba. No one wants to hear your bullshit.”

–George Gurley